Kelowna Rockets defenceman Devin Steffler is ready to ramp up his game as he enters his sophomore year with the Rockets. Last season was a big adjustment for the then 18-year-old as he made the switch to playing hockey in North America after spending two seasons in Europe.
You’d never guess that the 6’2, 187-pound defender is half Austrian or that he spent two seasons playing hockey in europe, but that’s exactly who he is and where he was playing prior to joining the Rockets.
Born to an Austrian father and an American mother Steffler has dual citizenship, he attended Okanagan Hockey Europe where he was able to experience the European style of game.
“I grew up in Colorado,” said Steffler. “My older brother Kele was with me for my first year in Austria, we attended an international school where we were taught in English. We played teams from all over Europe like Hungary and Slovakia. ”
“It was a lot of fun to play there, it was cool to experience the different cultures and see the different ways that the game is played. Going there was a great experience for me.”
Steffler’s older brother is also a defenceman; he’s currently playing hockey in Austria with Klagenfurt Athletic Sports Club in the Alps Hockey League.
He says that there is a difference in the way the game is played but that he found he was finding his footing as the days went by thanks to everyone around him.
“There was a big adjustment for me coming back to North America with the ice, over there we were playing on Olympic sized ice. I’ve found that in Europe it’s more of a skating game and that here it’s definitely more physical with more quick movements. Last season I thought I was improving as the season went on, the coaches and the guys really helped me with my game.”
The Durango, CO product had seven assists while playing in 64 games for Kelowna last season. Wanting to build off of his rookie campaign he returned home to Colorado where he continued to train hard.
“I spent my summer training hard getting ready for this season, and I also went over to Austria for three weeks to visit Kele. I’m looking forward to this season, and hopefully, at the end of it we’re lifting the Memorial Cup.”
Head coach Adam Foote has taken notice of the work that Steffler put in.
“I’m impressed with Steff,” said Foote. “To see the steps that he has taken over the last five months has been great. He has been working out, gaining the weight and working on his shot. You can tell that his confidence is way up.”
Steffler and the Rockets will play their final two games of the preseason this weekend during a home and home series with the Kamloops Blazers. They’ll face Kamloops on the road Friday night then host them at Prospera Place at 7:05 pm on Saturday. Two dollars from every ticket sold will be donated to Cops for Kids, tickets are on sale at selectyourtickets.com, at the Prospera Place box office or by phone at 250-762-5050.